IN which I am honest

5 Jan

So, yeah, a few months ago I fell in love and totally abandoned this blog. And you. Yes, you. And you’ve been nothing but nice to me. Even when I got really wasted or told you your new haircut was ugly (well it WAS.) I am not retiring this site. I still have  books to trash.  But let’s be honest: I will not be posting regularly.

Rather, I am focusing on a more SERIOUS endevor: theoutreachlibrarian. I’ve been getting requests for information in my professional, for true life and so have decided to put it together and blog.  Because that’s what we do, people. We blog. Whether letting people know about our gassy stomachs or fights with our sig others, we blog it for the world to see. I hope to add something positive and meaningful to the Internets.

Thanks for the support and I am not abandoning you again. Mommy just needs some nice quiet time. Alone. In the dark.

The Real Teen Librarians: no Ed Hardy here

2 Sep

So disappointed in that smoking baby; apparently at two, he’s already a quitter. Kids these days have noooo work ethic. But his skin is already looking so much better (hear that, Shannen Doherty?)

Anyway, please take the time to watch this 14 minute video I made with four other amazing ladies as part of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders Program. Apparently wearing gold high heels qualified me for this honour. We created this, along with some other tool kits (email me if you wanna see them) to help librarians lure impressionable youngsters over to the Dark Side. The tool kit includes things like form letters, activities for shadowees to do, virtual job shadowing and ways to partner with schools.

The best part is that most of the footage was created by teens themselves. So, you know it’s good.

Busting Myths: The Real Teen Librarians: http://vimeo.com/12795527

Kickin’ it old skool for back-to-skool

24 Aug
(Word up to Katie Dersnah Mitchell, who probably got caught smokin’ in the girls’ room and making out under the bleachers, for our latest escapade.)

Nothing says back-to-school quite like Wal-Mart commercials that make you feel less guilty for shopping there or trite Meg Ryan quotes from a certain movie I may or may not LOVE. Kids today don’t appreciate the allure of a Trapper Keeper (plain or with the picture of puppies on the front?) or buying a compass year after year only to finally use it in 10th grade. They’ve probably already established schoolyard hierarchy in SchoolVille and who needs black ‘n’white marbled composition books when you’ve got an iPad? Hopefully I am just jaded (duh) and back-to-school is just as vomit-inducing as when I was a kid. (Reasons include: forgetting to do summer reading until night before, not having Guess? jeans, wondering if your “Dukes of Hazzard” lunchbox makes you look too butch, bad perm, worried about stranger danger, etc.) Luckily we’ve found a book to help you through the worries and flurries of back-to-school angst for those entering their high school years. And since we all know no one in high school actually reads media for high schoolers, the following book was probably read by incredibly earnest, bespeckled 11-year-old girls already worried about growing breasts in time for prom (give it up, girls and resign yourself to refilling the punch bowl.) We present (for anyone starting a new venture, really) “Hi There, High School!” (sing it Barbra style, you queen.)

"Uh yeah, high school, could you not talk so loudly? Or kiss me good-bye when you drop me off? Or even drop me off in front of EVERYONE?"

Yeah, you read it right. The author of this book is GAY HEAD. GAY HEAD. This book is written by a GAY HEAD!  I wonder if her husband is named “Richard”?

Because "blueprint to the hell that is the next four years of your life" wasn't upbeat enough.

The author clearly went to school in a thorazine-induced haze. Does ANYONE outside of Patty Simcox polish the school sign like it’s Hugh Jackman’s gleaming abdomen? It’s like a guide to being the most annoying nerd ever, and not in the cool, watches “Star Trek” way. A reeeeal good way to make a good first impression is to ask some senior what the school insignia means. I’d love to see that episode of “Gossip Girl.” And I love the guilt-inducing “If you’re really proud of your school, you’ll learn its customs and traditions.” And if you really love America, you’ll learn English upon arrival and not try to build scary kooky cult centers near our sacred grounds.  Word.

 Actually, high school is much worse than the outside world, but with a better benefits package. Yep, math is essential for figuring out which countries full of starving people dying of diahrrea are communist threats and must be bombed into holy hell. It is also essential for figuring out how much money your pension is losing because your company invested in Enron.
We also see why current references age your book quicker than a baby on a soap opera.
Clearly, the same goes for slang, unless if I am mistaken and the kids are still sayin’ stuff like “save the “cat sessions” for the soda shop later. If you get the gong…” If fact, I am pretty sure the author stone-cold stole this from that new Clay Aiken song I hear is all the rage.

 

 I think “Traffigoon” sticks out most here, even amongst messages of not being an individualist. Challenge: get your kid to start using this word. I am imagining the kid who makes it their duty to follow instructions to the letter and probably whines, “you guys, you are not following proper fire drill protocol and you are creating a very dangerous situation for the rest of us.” I think you can hear that voice, right? He’s the one making millions of dollars years later. Or he’s selling comic books.

Etiquette for People Raised in Closets. And doesn’t Jell-O sound so much more romantic when it’s called “gelatine”? C’est comme “nouilles et fromage en casserole.”

And by the way licking and lapping are GREAT ways to get a date for prom when you’re only a freshman (no matter your gender.)

 And do you re-ully think high schoolers talk like hillbillies out of a Wayans Brothers’ movie? No wonder they hate us all. And I am totally confused by the “Both girls would look bee-utiful in Technicolor!” remark. Does that mean the olden days really were in black and white?

“Sit in a comfortable, perpendicular position and pay attention.” I like the specificity of these directions (um, yeah, that is more of an obtuse position) and how they are clearly preparing kids to follow directions like sheep. It’s soooo getting kids ready to be adults in the Reagan era. Where’s the guide for rich kids who DON’T have to follow the rules and get to steal people’s money and snort blow off of strippers’ g-strings? Is it next to “Ketchup: Nature’s Vegetable”?

Dude, this book so explains why the 1980s were full of tainted Tylenol and New Coke.

(Traffigoons.)

 

1. When did cheerleading become a “job”?

2. Why is this book so damn preachy? (Guess: because it’s intended audience is 11 and still listens to their parents.)

3. Will this book actually help anyone accomplish anything other than a constipation-inducing need to follow rules to the letter? And then later become a CPA.

4. Notice everything here is referred to as a “job.” Which reminds me of that quote from Samantha on “Sex and the City,” “..there’s a reason why they call it a JOB.” And also says fun things are not worth doing unless they are somehow comodified. My dad would freakin’ LOVE this book.

This is why I had eight lockers in high school. And one was dedicated to clothes for when the Vice Principal inevitably had to ask me to change.

This last paragraph is just so fraught with hand-wringing and dabbing one’s eyes with hankies. Any time you can use the phrase “carelessness” with teens, you will get so far with them. Add language like “the school plant and its equipment” and you’ve got a recipe for a hip, with-it message sure to inspire good citizenship and keep the hippies away.

I further appreciate the explanation of what private vs. public property is. Because you can handle complex stuff like this now that you’re in high school, yo.

We’ve got 10 more pages to go and miles before we sleep, so write a note on a paper napkin and slip it into your kids’ lunches before cocktail hour! In other words, to be continued.

Bamboo People: read this book or I’ll stick your hand in warm water while you are sleeping

23 Jul

BAMBOO PEOPLE by Mitali Perkins (Charlesbridge, July 2010). From the fantastic Mitali Perkin’s (RICKSHAW GIRL) comes the untold stories of the Karenin and Burmese people, currently living under military rule. Told from the perspectives of Chiko and Tu Reh, fifteen-year-old boys on either side of the conflict who are just trying to survive being thrust into violence and war against their wills and beliefs. Chiko’s father has been thrown in jail for protesting the military rule and in particular the violence against the Karenni people. Chiko is conscripted into the army where he learns that his book smarts aren’t the only kind of intelligence and how to start being a man. Tu Reh and his family have been forced into a refugee camp where they fight the Burmese from the jungle and try to stay alive. Circumstances force the two together and to forge an understanding. Perkin’s gives a engaging, real voices to her characters who pull you along with them on their often-terrifying ride through a tense situation. Perkin’s teaches readers about a world that exists today and about which we know very little as Westerners. But her message doesn’t feel clunky nor does it hit readers over the head. Instead, it shows us a slice of life that we should consider more closely and about which we should care. Check it out. Excellent for reluctant and guy readers.

In which we do a for-true book review

21 Jul

Growing up in a working-class neighborhood populated with union men who drank Busch beer and used curse words like Shakespeare uses “thou,” I knew more military vets than most middle class Jewish girls past the age when fathers served as a matter of fact. And yet, they made little impression on me, most likely because they never spoke of their service and because the rest of my upbringing was decidedly anti-military and anti-war. (Unless it was for Israel, but that’s another story.) My teens and twenties were full of protests and anti-military rants that met with appreciation in Chicago, Brooklyn and Eugene, OR.  Because I could never fit into military life with my recalcitrant and peaceful leanings, I could not understand why others could.

Which is where Levi, the protagonist of Dana Reinhardt’s new novel The Things A Brother Knows (September 2010) finds himself when his Golden Boy older brother, Boaz forgoes a bright college career to become a Marine. Sons of an Israeli immigrant who served in that military, Boaz and Levi have grown up in upper middle class American culture which sees military service as a choice for those with no other choices. Certainly not for sports heroes with the grades to attend Columbia. And especially not Jews from greater Boston, though their father might have grown up on a kibbutz. Levi, his family members, and Boaz’s gorgeous girlfriend all still grapple to understand Boaz’s choice. Now Boaz is returning home, with a hero’s welcome. Boaz returns understandably changed and mysterious to his family who are so thrilled to have him home they ignore that he walks everywhere and refuses to leave his room. Except Levi who is determined to unravel the mystery of his brother’s self-imposed confinement and then eventual leaving again.

Stories like this need to be told. Veterans are struggling to receive basic services such as mental health help, living wages to support their families and other resources promised to them when they signed their lives away, usually at ages at which reasoning and logic skills are still developing. Post-traumatic stress plagues current and past war vets and yet Congress fights over whether or not to fund treatment for it because of potential fraud. Boaz represents a real and pressing problem in our society, a society which rushed to fund war at a cost of billions but refuses to provide treatment for the effects of said war at the cost of lives.

And yet Reinhardt’s novel fails on many levels. The characters tend to fall flat despite attempts to make them real. They feel more like whimsical creations (ooh, let’s make the adopted Chinese girl Jewish and quirky and she goes to Catholic school , how novel!) than real people. In fact, Reinhardt seems to borrow heavily from John Green’s oeuvre in creating nerdy, sensitive boys, the cool girls they love, and their eccentric best friends in this book. The characters are hard to connect with, though you want to care about their troubles and struggles. We are too distracted by what makes them different to connect with what makes them like us.

The first half of the book is slow and weighed down by weak character development. While the pacing does match up with Levi’s struggle to find his way out of the dark, created by Boaz’s return home, it makes for sluggish reading. That said, once Levi leaves the confines of the quirky life the author created for him and follows his brother on a journey to who-knows-where, the pacing and story pick up. We start to get to know Boaz and his experiences more, which is really the draw in this book and the reason to keep reading. A John Green-esque love interest is thrown in, but she’s delightfully harmless enough if totally unrealistic (she’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl) and therefore a bit of an enjoyable diversion.

The novel ends at a rally Washington, DC that may or may not be pro-peace or pro-war, depending on your viewpoint. Levi begins to understand why his brother could not return home the same boy he left. And readers might feel compelled to research more about returning veterans, their needs and the current inadequate means of meeting them. But I hope a better book, more fleshed out and less focused on details that come off as distracting rather than charming, will focus the spotlight on those returning home.

Unintentionally funny interview: men PAID to sleep with this woman?

14 Jul

Why is she licking her herpes-infested lips?

Men, you should all be madder than Sarah Palin when she gets her copy of US Weekly tomorrow and finds out Kathy Griffin is paying for Levi’s probably-shotgun wedding to Bristol (complete with Bruce Villanch as maid-of-honor. I wish.). Y’all need to go apepoop on the men who PAID to sleep with Holly Hill, the pseudonym (although Girlfriend has NO problem slapping her face all over the internets, including AMAZON, purveyor of anonymity) of a out-of-work psychologist (they are ALWAYS the messed up ones, stone-cold) who decided selling herself off on-line was way easier than getting a real job after her gazillionaire married boyfriend who convinced her to quit her job to become his full-time Barbie plaything dumped her. Because men who have paid mistresses are soooooo trustworthy and totally keep their word about supporting your stupid butt when you quit your job that you got totally overeducated for so that you could carry a quilted Chanel bag. I mean, even I wouldn’t do that and damn if I would not do about anything for a quilted Chanel bag (red, please. NO knock-offs, ahem. It’s like my Klondike bar.)

So to make her mommy and daddy very, very proud, Ho-lly Hill picked herself up and pulled up her Hermes bootstraps and took out ads for sugardaddies. Because damn if she was going to let that psychology degree go to waste! John Galliano Japanese schoolgirl-inspired skirts do not pay for themselves and we all know life is NOT worth living if it doesn’t cost you upwards of $400,000 or more a year. Seriously, just kill yourself first. Well, Ho-lly is stronger than that and interviewed more than 30 men to find her ‘daddies’ (“just how many condoms will you wear to protect me and your wife from any creepy diseases you might have picked up in your pandering SINCE YOU ARE WILLING TO PAY TO SLEEP WITH ME AND I’M 40 BUT LYING AND SAYING I AM 35? Oh, you don’t wear condoms? Awesome by me!”) I know, hilarious, right? It gets better!

So, Ho-lly does the whole sugarbabe (her stupid phrasing) thing but gets some kind of moral compass, but not really and quits. She writes a book and because Barnes and Noble needs more for its Stripper/Prostitute Memoir section, it gets published. And because people have crappy taste in books, thank goodness or this blog would not exist. Yeah, we are getting to the interview part. So, she does a boatload of press, because she is trying to protect her privacy by using a fake name but her real picture. She does one for Marie Claire, which is not too bad as far as fashion magazines go. Anyway, a few gems:

  • Men are SUCH sexual creatures they cannot help themselves and must have mistresses and women would do themselves a favor if they accepted this and got all feminist about it. And by feminist about it, she means he’s going to go to a strip club anyway, so make him get you a new purse or pair of shoes in return. (I would just say, remind him NOT to get them from the strippers unless you feel like channeling Pamela Anderson.)
    She means this. That’s it, I am totally locking Mr. Math Professor in my closet next time he comes over. I’ll pretend I’ve been writing juggling formulas on my walls and I need him to take a closer look…just one step closer…that’s it, you MAN!
  • If you don’t feel like having sex, just think of it as exercise and focus on breathing and clenching your pelvis. Yes, she claims she does not go to the gym because this is her exercise.
    Because sex need not be a mutually satisfying activity for everyone to Win!
  • If you sleep with a married man be sure to tell his wife, “Thanks for the loan!”
    Yeah, like you borrowed her car, with her permission, of course. To be fair, Ho-lly advises you to leave him in better condition than in which you found him. And by that I assume she means with less STDs? In better shape for his next mistress? A sense that he should buy women Leboutins because Blahniks are soooo 1990s? Um, how about that maybe he shouldn’t cheat on his wife? C’mon, people, we do not live in France where this thing goes on and no one bats a fake eyelash. Ho-lly was not getting paid to play by men who had arrangements with their wives (read some Dan Savage, people) but rather with rich scumbags who thought it their right to cheat on their wives. Of course, Ho-lly claims it was only because those bad wives were not interested in sex anymore. So, it’s TOTALLY justified. Get a divorce, see a therapist, be honest.
  • Hint: classic bikini wax because rich dudes totally balk at the porn star look.
    Men paying for a mistress have standards? Classy ones, apparently! Someone tell Paris Hilton, stat!
  • Seriously, Ho-lly is convinced those of us women who want monogamy are batpoop crazy and bad women. And I’m guessing she thinks men who look you deep in the eyes and tell you they have been cheated on and hurt before and want a faithful relationship are filthy liars out of touch with their testosterone. Because, ladies, it’s all worth it if you just accept your man for the dog he is and get a New Jersey Housewives makeover for your trouble.

    And this woman says she is a good role model for her nieces because she’s honest.

    (Disclaimer: I am home really sick, so apologies if this makes NO sense.)

    Ooh, ooh, real book to get psyched for!

    13 Jul

    As the ashes of ALA settle, I’ve come to realize there are 5,000 books on my nightstand, under the bed and around my Palm Beach Grandma-inspired abode waiting to be read and scrutinized. Crap. Well, sorry Mr. Math Professor, you’re gonna have to do some math problems about juggling for fun while I read. Summer of Love, my ass, Summer of Unread ARCs and a backlog of truly unintentionally funny books more like it. Unread books make me drink.

    I’m only halfway through the engaging and humble (I mean that in a GOOD way) Commuters : a novel by Emily Gray Tedrowe. No spoilers in this review! Here’s the blurb: 

    At seventy-eight, Winnie Easton has finally found love again with Jerry Trevis, a wealthy Chicago businessman who has moved to the small, upstate town of Hartfield, New York, to begin his life anew. But their decision to buy one of the town’s biggest houses ignites anger and skepticism—as children and grandchildren take drastic actions to secure their own futures and endangered inheritances. With so much riding on Jerry’s wealth, a decline in his physical health forces hard decisions on the family, renewing old loyalties while creating surprising alliances.

    First, let’s get this out of the way: Emily is super nice, a Betsy Tacy fan and wears awesome glasses. So I love her already. In fact, it’s kinda worrisome when you meet someone as genuinely lovely as Emily because WHAT IF HER BOOK SUCKS? It doesn’t. Phew.

    A perfect book club read, or beach read for those wanting something challenging and with emotional texture, or book to pass to your sister-in-law or great-aunt, or to get your teenage daughter reading more, Commuters is quite literally a book with something for nearly everyone. Tedrowe deftly handles her squirrely cast of multi-generational, multi-family characters with finesse. Unlike most books of this ilk, Tedrowe wisely realizes that simplicity is key in communicating the complex emotions and thoughts her characters experience as Jerry and Winnie blend their families with their sweet, unorthodox love. Instead of making every one literally a “character” full of over-the-top quirks, kookiness or odd habits, Tedrowe creates realistic, individualistic but identifiable PEOPLE. In a literary time when three-ring circuses seem to reign, Tedrowe’s down-to-earth, but careful words feel fresh and most welcome to weary readers.

    Buy this book for yourself and some nearest dearests with whom you want to have an intelligent and/or gossipy conversation about characters in situations that will stay with you.

    And I’d say this even if Emily weren’t so damn nice.

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